Sunday, 30 August 2009

Benin's answer to the maldives... how the guide book starts to describe Grand Popo, what it should also have mentioned is ..'a very nice place to escape to with a few friends on your birthday...'

If you have to get older, I figure you may as well have fun doing it. So off we went with that aim in mind...and fun we had...
Benin is not like home, playgrounds are rare, to find two on the same day was beyond exciting for the smaller members of the birthday fun club. And with them happy the rest of us enjoyed a nice relaxing lunch (you don't get much choice about that as food is cooked on African timeframes...) overlooking the gardens of the hotel grounds, followed by chocolate crepes and ice cream. Oh yes the fun is going well.

By now the weather has decided to cooperate too and we have a lovely sunny day in time for swimming. So we have fun splashing and diving, and being kept an eye on by the swimming pool 'police' - a man who would not let shoes anywhere near his pool, nor any person that had not experienced the freezing cold shower, nor jumping in such a manner as to splash water everywhere....

Then we headed to the beach, we ate, we played, we ate more. Did I mention that we ate? Everyone had been baking yummy things and so we ate possibly the most un-balanced meal ever. But it was fun. And it was a picnic - in Africa. That is not something that happens everyday. And it was shared with family and friends, sadly not all of either, but it was a day to remember.
Ok so this is us discovering the camera had a timer and showing the boys the magic of the camera taking a photo all by itself...
And this is the beach at sunset. One of the rare photos that wasn't of all of us being silly :-)

To make the day more memorable we did a little off road driving on the way home, but that might be a whole different post...

Thursday, 27 August 2009

filthy children and holey shoes...

Some observations...

1. Deck 8 is covered in something black from the funnel
2. Children all end up looking like deck 8 after spending any time there
3. Deck 8 has to be scrubbed off the children upon re-entering the cabin - none of this washing off like normal mud, proper scrubbing like you would your saucepans
4. Deck 8 has to be washed off the 'bath' (we now have a baby bath with a plug that can sit in the shower, and all the water drains out and leaves a nice little pile of deck 8 behind)
5. Deck 8 has to be scrubbed off the toilet every night if No. 3 was not done quickly enough to remove the deck 8 from the recently potty trained Joshua who somehow manages to transfer it all over the seat
6. Deck 8 not only turns shoes black but it is almost inevitable that shoes acquire holes from wiggle-car-ing around the filthy deck!

Example of shoes....
7. Deck 8 is lots of fun, is a good place to chat and has some lovely sun-sets - so what's a little grubbiness between friends?

Monday, 24 August 2009

the next round of wet wednesdays

You may remember Tom getting soaked to the skin every Wednesday last year while he was in pre-school, well this year the nursery and pre-school are so small that they join together for much of the nursery time. So now Joshua, who thinks there is very little better than being soaked to the skin, gets to have the Wet Wednesday fun... (Joshua in the red t shirt and checked shorts - do you remember your old shorts Ben?)

Sunday, 23 August 2009

things I am realising...

1. Boys are a totally strange species (but lots of fun!). I thought I could play 'boys' games, I built a road for the cars to race around, but they are not content with racing the cars around, they have to crash the cars. I thought we could play hospitals but if you so much as lie on the floor for a minute you may (will) get jumped on. After being squirted with the waterpistol being played with in the bathroom (whilst sitting on the computer in the lounge), the next night we thought we would not risk getting wet and shut them in to squirt each other to their hearts content, only to see them trying to aim through the crack under the door (let's just say this didn't go down too well...)

2. They are no longer little boys (sort of anyway..) Joshua is now torn between the beloved Fireman Sam and playing with cars (as in the ones from the film Cars), he would rather play with lego than duplo (much to Tom's annoyance) and takes himself to the bathroom (but comes out again holding his bottom clothes as they are still harder to put back on than take off)

3. There will be differences growing up in Africa than in England, the boys will learn to speak 'ship' language, they forget what some of our favourite foods are like or even called, they don't know what the man in the story is wearing (scarf, gloves) but today we also read a story about where chocolate comes from. The little girl wanted to have a chocolate tree in her garden and is told by her brother they grow in Africa, and yes my friends they do, Tom was excited that we were reading about something that we saw only a couple of weeks ago! And don't forget while other children can name TV characters or footballers we can name every type of vessel that passes our windows, which for the strange species amongst us remains to be exciting stuff.


Friday, 21 August 2009

We have hope!

Even though we work in a place where the darkness is apparant we have hope. I heard it said today that God's goodness can never be defined by what is happening in our lives but by the cross. Starting here the question is no longer whether we think God is good but whether we can trust him and keep hold of hope despite the troubles that come our way. We hear stories of hopelessness on the wards, stories of rejection because of deformaties that can be easily repaired, of mothers not being interested in their babies because they think they are cursed, but we have hope. Our lives were described as a megaphone, the way we live gives a message to other people, whether that be good or bad, and here in Benin we need to be mindful that our lives can be used to bring hope to a people in darkness as we trust in our God.

We pray this song over the nation here...
You're the God of this City
You're the King of these people
You're the Lord of this nation
You are

You're the Light in this darkness
You're the Hope to the hopeless
You're the Peace to the restless
You are

There is no one like our God
There is no one like our God
For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater thing have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Check out our friends blogs as they share after our community meeting...

If you would like something a little more lighthearted, our friends the Rollands are experiencing something similar to us, but we were armed with the buckets and didn't have any overhead pages :-)

And being ill is our justification for being rubbish at blogging lately and for linking to other people's blogs who write very honestly to give you more insight into ship life, should you have the time to check them out - enjoy!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Tom's classroom

Here is a link to the blog of our friend Estelle, now 'Miss Estelle', Tom's teacher - who has put some photos on of their classroom...

Friday, 14 August 2009

the reason we don't take many photos..

This morning I was folding my washing and putting it into piles in the laundry room when some people came by on a tour of the ship. Wearing yesterdays clothes, having spent the previous two hours cleaning the cabin of a family that left yesterday, I was putting my underwear on the pile when someone decided this would be a good photo opportunity. I disagreed. This was me going about my everyday life, looking a mess. I don't mind the tours, I don't really mind people taking photos but this is why we don't take many photos of life here, because it is just that - it is people's lives. It may be a novelty to us the way people live here, we may be shocked at some of the things we see and want to capture that on camera or share it with people back home, we may think the children are cute, but I am not prepared to take my camera and invade their privacy every time I go out.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

the dens in our cabin..

I always thought dens were places children formed from chairs and sheets and things to play in so that is the type I mean here! I have been enlightened that to other people 'den' means a room and according to the wikipedia definitions it is part of a house similar to a bedroom, but maybe what we have is a 'children's den' - minus the part about them being in bushes or up trees.

So how do you form dens in a small space? All you need is a large sheet and a few big magnets to attach the sheet to the ceiling and suddenly the small spaces and beds take on a whole new level of play value!

Since we got some big magnets last week we have been having a lot of fun, today we were given a tent which is currently in the corner of our cabin as Joshua's latest den. At least until Tom comes home from school and they have to share it. Fortunately they are at those great ages where imaginative play is where it is all at and great games can be had from sheets and magnets, as long as there is a fire engine still within sight anyway :-)

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

the herd of elephants!

Last week our cabin was so noisy it felt like it was vibrating due to the work being done on the railings on the deck above, this week the noise is the much preferred sound of children running up and down having fun. We are really excited to have a PE teacher to complete the teaching staff this year. It is very difficult to get any exercise on the ship unless you are very intentional about it and make a point of going running or to aerobics or frisbee or whatever else you can think of... there are no walks to school or the shops or it is great that the children have regular PE slots in the week where Mr C can hopefully work them hard and wear them out!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

the last day of the holidays..

While the boys and I have had a quiet week potty training and playing around the ship, Tommy and the teachers have been having teacher training, endless meetings and working almost every evening, and even at the swimming pool yesterday, on new versions of the timetable and other things ready for tomorrow. Tonight the school is open for families to visit the teachers in their new classrooms before they start back tomorrow. It has felt like a very long last week, our cabin has been too noisy to stay in during working hours so we have not been able to have friends to play, deck 7 has been too noisy to play on without wearing ear protection, deck 8 has been unloading containers.... It will be nice to have some routine again, it will be nice not to have to constantly entertain the boys single handedly, it will be nice when Tommy actually gets to have some time off (although I can't see that being yet...but i am counting down the days until Christmas...and will make sure that Tommy has a break next summer...)

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Palliative care

Knowing that lots of people enjoyed reading the linked post about the eye work. So here is a FANTASTIC one about how Mercy Ships are supporting those we can't help surgically....

Hope you enjoy reading it!

Monday, 3 August 2009

potty training - tick...

I do not intend to write further daily blogs about our childs toileting habits, except to say we are grateful for the prayers said by those people concerned enough for our sanity braving potty training on the ship to pray about such a mundane thing. After starting yesterday lunchtime we have had no accidents since yesterday lunchtime and a fastly depleting supply of chocolate buttons. Oh well, without Tesco down the road their supply will soon run out and hopefully he will continue doing as well without the rewards! We have been to the cafe, dining room and deck 7, tomorrow's challenge is to brave taking some things to the boutique on deck 2 and playing on deck 8 (where there are no toilets!)....

Well done Joshua!!

what's cooking?...

So each week we have a menu which we can access to see what meals are coming up....this week is looking good, celebrating the arrival of the frozen food container the galley has been waiting for and featuring lots of our boys fav meals...

Monday Delicious beef with baked potatoes and carrots
Tuesday Scrumptious African food
Wednesday Lasagna with garlic toast and green beans
Thursday In celebration of the frozen container arriving, hamburgers and french fries.
Friday Kitchen surprise. With the container here there are just too many amazing options to choose from.
Saturday Pulled pork on a bun with macaroni and cheese and sweet corn
Sunday Delicious fish served with a vegetable stirfry and coconut rice
Sunday breakfast
Bacon, with scrambled eggs

Sunday, 2 August 2009

potty training on a ship: day 1...

Probably no one besides Nanny, Great Nanny and Grandma cares but we have to report the following: three lots of wet clothes followed by Josh asking for the toilet and using it like a big boy eleven times since. Yes we have been counting: we have eleven dinosaur stickers on the chart to prove it!! So far its going pretty well, tomorrow the test will be actually leaving the cabin and whether we can get to the bathrooms on time (as I have promised the boys we will visit the cafe for crepes as we have never done that before!)...